US President Donald Trump, on 2 December, dismissed reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is about to be replaced, in a tweet, calling it “fake news” and adding that Tillerson was not going anywhere.
Trump’s tweet came shortly after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that the Tillerson “continues to lead the state department”.
The denials came amid reports from several news organisations, citing unnamed administration officials, that plans are being drawn up to replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. President Donald Trump and Tillerson have disagreed on foreign policy issues and are said not to get on.
There are no personnel announcements at this time. Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the state department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump’s administration.Sarah Sanders, White House Spokeswoman
In a later briefing, Sanders added: “When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve here.” At the state department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert conceded that Tillerson and Trump have had policy differences.
But she said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had phoned the department to say “the rumours are not true”.
When asked how Tillerson, who is due in Europe next week, could continue to do his job while the White House was briefing journalists he was about to lose it, she said: “The secretary of state is someone who doesn’t let his feathers get ruffled very easily.”
In further reaction to the reports, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said Tillerson was “unaware of anything changing”.
Defence Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that there was “nothing” to the reports.
Earlier reports suggested that US President Donald Trump was considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has had a strained relationship with his boss over North Korea and other issues.
Tillerson, as was reported, would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, known as a Trump loyalist and foreign policy hard-liner, within weeks under a White House plan to carry out the most significant staff shake-up so far of the Trump administration.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump had given final approval to the latest staff shake-up, but one of the officials said the president asked for the plan to be put together.
Tillerson was reported in October to have privately called Trump a “moron”, something which the secretary of state sought to dismiss.
That followed a tweet by Trump a few days earlier that Tillerson should not waste his time by seeking negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programme, widely seen as a sign of how the secretary of state had become marginalised.
Trump had asked John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to develop the transition strategy, and it has already been discussed with other officials, one administration source said.
Under the plan, the staff reshuffle would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward, the official said.
“There are no personnel announcements at this time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said in a statement. “Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department.”
(With inputs from IANS and Reuters.)
(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT to find #PollutionKaSolution. Send in your suggestions to email@example.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)